Featured Designer: Hypnowl Empire

FK chats to Heiko of wonderfully wacky Gold Coast based label Hypnowl Empire, debuting at the upcoming Brisbane Markets!

Can you tell us about your lovely label and where the name comes from?
Hypnowl Empire is an upcoming label featuring wacky, weird and whimsical designs on shirts and other products in limited editions.
The name Hypnowl Empire comes from one of my favourite characters that I’ve created, the Hypnowl. It’s an owl with hypnotic eyes. I was searching for a name for my label for a long time, until it occured to me that all my illustration works inhabits their own space, a sort of parallel universe. Then I thought that the Hypnowl would be a good character to base the label on (or rule it, since it has such good powers of persuasion), and from this moment on it was the Hypnowl Empire!

What is your creative background and how did it lead you to where you are today?
I’m a self-taught artist and illustrator. I work in many areas, doing editorial, book and product illustrations, art prints etc. When I started working as an illustrator full time, I did all sorts of stuff, like gallery shows, illustrating newspaper columns – I still do. I didn’t deliberately settle on a niche or optimal outlet for my illustrations, but people kept asking me to make drawings for their own t-shirt labels, especially after some of my designs were printed by threadless. After a while I just figured that I should try launching my own label, which is what brings me here!

How has your creative style developed over time? and what inspires your work?
I was always drawn to obscure, weird, wacky, whimsical stuff, so one of the first images I posted on the internet was a giraffe burying its head in the ground, like ostriches do in cartoons. Then I was mostly drawing black and white stuff like pandas and skulls, or apocalyptic scenes and ice cream trucks. With Hypnowl Empire I’m trying to apply all that I’ve learned along the way to nice t-shirt design.
As for inspiration, I’ve spent a great deal of my uni time watching indie movies in cinemas, or being the only non-parent adult at Studio Ghibli film screenings. I also love music and going to museums or small bookstores, or watching cartoons, all that stuff. Inspiration is elusive and random stuff – if it wasn’t, you could easily get it on ebay.

What do you love about living in the Gold Coast? How does it differ from your time in Heidelberg, Germany?
I like the weather, the landscape, the mentality. People generally accept you for what you are here, while in Germany there is a certain standard you have to conform to, otherwise you’re constantly struggling. There’s a really nice can-do atmosphere here that isn’t there in the same way in Germany. Nobody really gets fussed about things, which is really different to my nature and upbringing, because I used to get caught up in details. But working for hire, on deadlines and living here has taught me a great deal to focus on what’s important.

What challenges have you faced starting your own label, and what are some things you love about it?
Starting a t-shirt label is hard. There’s a ton of stuff to research, from the basics of the business to finding marketing channels and checking out what the competition is doing. Once you’ve got the fundamentals then there’s another world of tasks, like finding a printer, setting up a website, ordering promo materials and packaging materials. Sometimes it seems each time you tick off one thing two others pop up. But it’s the price you have to pay for creating the label the way you want it. When I received my first Hypnowl Empire business cards I got this big “Ready, Set, GO” push – I can’t wait to take my stuff to the markets!

What can we expect to see from Hypnowl at the upcoming Brisbane Markets?
We were going to create a stall that stands out in the crowd, with rollercoasters, free ice cream, a petting zoo and a waterslide. But then I looked at our budget and the stall guide lines, so we had to scrap some of that. The Finders Keepers are going to be our launch event, so we want to offer something awesome for the crowd. Hope to see you there!



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